Monday, 27 November 2017

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Being an almost entirely volunteer run organisation doesn't exempt the GWSR from the need to meet the obligations of the many and varied items of health and safety legislation that have been enacted by parliament over the years.  The HSE, or even worse, the coroner would take a dim view of us if we failed to live up to their requirements and cited the fact that "We're just volunteers" as an excuse.  Consequently, I attended a safety training session on the preparation & use of grinding wheels on Friday.  Along with several colleagues from the Steam Loco dept and a few more from Carriage and Wagon, I can now claim to be certified.  This will come as no surprise to many of those who know me who have long since claimed that I was certifiable.  

I won't bore you with the contents of the training, but I will mention something that came to my attention.  It was a pretty cold morning on Friday, not quite enough to have brass monkeys scurrying for warmer climes lest they incur serious injury, but they were certainly browsing the web and checking out the price of flights.  I had informed the attendees from Carriage and Wagon, that come the tea break, we could exit from the training room (it was warmer outside than in) and warm ourselves up in front of the heater in the mess coach.   It was only when we got into the mess coach that I discovered that the heater was missing, a bare patch of wall marked the space where it used to be. 
The mounting screws were still there, but no sign of the heater
It was decided that it must be a ploy by the management committee to stop us congregating in the mess coach and get out and do some work instead.

Also on Friday, 5526 was being spruced up in readiness for its first turn on Sunday, Alex was busy cleaning below the running plate
5526, basking in the sun
Alex at work.
On to Saturday, the key task was to get Dinmore Manor's old tender temporarily back on its wheels (well at least some of them) to free up the lifting jacks.  There was an urgent need to get Des lifted.  Des isn't one of the more elderly members of the steam loco dept, in need of helping to his feet after over-doing it the night before, Des is short for "Diesel Electric Shunter", which has a dodgy axle box that needs some TLC.

The first step was to get the vacuum reservoir cylinder refitted.  The magic scissor lift trolley being put to good use here:
Vac reservoir cylinder re-installed
Axle box casting and half of the white metal bearing
We were only going to put the leading and trailing wheels in, the intermediate would be left out for the time being.  The horn guide faces of the intermediates needed to be protected from the elements, so a liberal helping of petroleum jelly was applied.
Looks like it's ready to swim the channel now
The axle box castings are extremely heavy, so once again, a scissor trolley was used to raise them into position, then the trolley was lowered and three people manoeuvred the casting & bearing round so that they were on the top of the axle.
Axle box, raised and ready to be rotated into position
Martin (l) and David, pleased that one is the right way up and wedged in place
Propped up and ready for the tender to be lowered
Once all four axle boxes were in position, the tender was lowered down onto them and the horn ties re-attached.
Mark (l) lowers the tender
Finally, temporarily back on at least some of its wheels...
...then off out into the yard behind the 04
By the end of the day, Des had been fetched into the shed and was ready to be lifted:
Des, about to go up in the world. (Photo courtesy of Mark Young)
A separate team of people were working on 3845's boiler.  The tubes that had been removed last week, needed slicing up into small enough lengths to fit into the scrap metal skip.
Neatly sliced boiler tubes
Unaccountably, the previous owners hadn't washed out the boiler before sending 3845 off to Barry, in fact, the evidence suggested that it hadn't been washed out for some considerable time before that.  With the tubes removed, it was now time to remedy matters.
Mike hosing down the inside of the boiler barrel
There was quite a waterfall coming out
Dan at work with the pressure washer
Meanwhile, over in the 2807 camp, they were back to turning more chairs into boot scrapers:
Bruce wire brushing a chair.
I'm sure that they're looking forward to 2807 coming back from Llangollen at the end of the Santa season, so that they can attend to their winter maintenance plans.

Most of the members of the steam  loco dept are blessed with a fair amount of blubber to help keep them warm, however Eleanor is not one of them, she had to resort to trying to warm her hands around a cup of tea in the mess coach, in the absence of the heater.
No substitute for a heater in the mess coach
I believe that a small team of people have been putting time into the Peckett on Sundays.  She's certainly showing signs of coming back together, the hand brake is a recent addition.
Peckett "John" slowly returning to life.
There are a few small jobs that needed tackling on Dinmore Manor, one of which was the fact that the ash pan door has a sacrificial plate welded onto it, that had by now been well and truly sacrificed.
Len, removing one of the door's split pins
The inside of the door itself, the sacrificial plate is half missing.
A new plate is in stock and will be welded in shortly.

The next in line for the lifting jacks before Dinmore Manor's old tender can lifted again, is 35006, which ended up in the yard, with its tender in front of the loco
Cart before the horse

Sunday, 19 November 2017

A Day at the Races... With Added Fish and Chips

The forecast had predicted rain for half the day on Saturday, which meant that it was at least half right.  Mike had been in on Thursday and Friday removing the last remaining tubes from 3845's boiler.  He left instructions for the tubes that had been removed to be cut up into lengths that would fit in the scrap skip, however nobody wanted to take that on in the inclement weather, especially as there were more pressing matters to attend to in the shed working on Dinmore Manor's old tender.
All tubes removed
Not cut up.
 Waiting in the car park on the unloading road, on Saturday morning, was 5526, which has been hired in from the South Devon Railway.
5526, newly arrived
 Our crews have fond memories of her sister loco, 5542, which was part of our home fleet until fairly recently, so many are keen to see how 5526 compares.  Nobody has failed to notice that nice warm, fully enclosed cab, which looks very inviting when the alternative for the Santa season is the rather more exposed Dinmore Manor, at least when running tender first.

Also of note, was that the missing section of the apron outside the shed has been temporarily filled in with gravel (which looked suspiciously like ballast to me... I didn't enquire as to where it came from).  The plan is still to concrete  this chunk, but there is some work that needs doing to the drainage that runs through there first.
The apron
 Saturday was the second day of race trains to Cheltenham Race Course (CRC) to tie in with some event that they were running.  Yes, I know, it was probably some important event in the horse racing calendar, but I don't follow such things. I prefer my transport to have large wheels, coupling rods & to be powered by coal.  OK, Two wheels and V twin petrol engines are also favoured by me too, but I digress.   There was one loco in steam, Dinmore Manor, and three round trips, one to take the race goers from Toddington to CRC, a lunch time fish and chip special and a third trip to fetch the race goers back again.  As there are precious few turns in November, each trip was allotted a different crew.  I was down for the first one, along with Chris who was being let loose for the first time since passing out as a driver a few weeks ago.  We had both made the same fairly elementary mistake, neither of us wear watches except at the railway and neither of us had set our watches back, when they changed on October 29th.  I had quite a shock when I checked my watch and discovered that it was ostensibly half past eight, and I still only had 40 PSI on the clock.
Chris adjusting his time piece
 The tender was only half full of water, so we refilled in the yard.  I had forgotten about the "indoor water feature" in the tender, another little job to be tackled during the down season in the new year.
A trap for the unwary
Heading off towards the stock
 We didn't have much coal in the tender, James and Jeremy kindly pulled it forward after finishing cleaning duties.
James (l) and Jeremy pulling forward
 The working timetable said that we should be coupled up to the stock and supplying steam heat for an hour before departure.  Chris had taken note that there would be a lot of sitting around waiting, and that something ought to be done to fill in the time.  That something turned out to be cook breakfast, Jeremy cooked the first batch and James the second.  These are important aspects of preparing a cleaner for the duties of being a fireman, right up there with being passed out on domestic kettles.  I wasn't prepared to pass either of them out just yet though, they will definitely require more practice. 
Jeremy cooking the first batch
 James had obviously tried doing this before, and noted that it can be quite straining reaching down and hanging on to a shovel.  His cunning plan was to rest the handle of the shovel on the water bucket  however, the centre of gravity of this particular shovel was definitely somewhere inside the firebox, and he nearly lost the whole lot into the fire. As I had managed to leave home in the morning without having had any breakfast, I was very grateful to Chris for remedying the situation.  Thanks Chris.
James, resorting to plan B
 James complained that whenever I photograph him for the blog, that I never get his "good side".  It's not a factor that I usually take into account I must confess, few in the steam loco dept have a good side to get.

Normally, the race train days see many people thronging the platforms each taking it in turns for a "selfie" by the loco.  On this occasion, the steady rain put off all bar the hardiest, most preferring to head straight into the nicely warmed carriages to find their seats. 
The brollies say it all
 We braved the elements until about a quarter of an hour before departure, we eventually decided that the rain really was going to stay for the day (Chris' phone was still telling him that it was dry in Toddington and sunny in Winchcombe, which was very much contradicted by the evidence before our eyes). Eventually, we took the view that we really would need the storm sheet up and sent James and Jeremy out to sort it out.
It still leaves a lot to be desired, but better than nothing
 I was impressed that the line side clearance gangs were out at all in the miserable conditions, I was even more impressed that they could manage to get cut down vegetation to burn under the conditions.  They have obviously missed their vocation and should join the steam loco dept
Burning, in spite of the rain
 Once again, the rain made the race goers scurry off in search of shelter, rather than linger by the loco for photos.
Ready to return to Toddington, the lamp code is for empty coaching stock
 A recent change to the way that we operate is to be found at Gotherington.  Historically, we had red lights come on to tell us if the points at the CRC end of the loop had failed.  The obvious draw back to this, is that if the lights failed, then you wouldn't know.  The change is that we now have a white flashing light under the deck of the signal gantry to tell us if the points are set correctly when the signal box is out of use.  It only starts to flash when the train hits the track circuit.  This is of course a better way of doing things, as it is fail safe, if the light fails, then we now have to stop, and examine/clip the points before proceeding.
The light was clearly seen, even if hard to spot in this photo.
 Once back at Toddington, we handed over to Jeff, Eleanor & Tom, who had the pleasure of crewing Dinmore Manor for the fish and chip special.

The Cheltenham Fryer
 Meanwhile, in the David Page shed (nobody wanted to work outdoors), some last minute painting was being finished off on Dinmore Manor's old tender.
The frames are black on the outside now, as well as underneath
 The vacuum reservoir's difficult to reach when in situ parts have been painted black too:
Difficult to reach bits done...
...along with various other fixtures & fittings
 I believe that the plan is to put the tender down on its wheels again next week, thereby freeing up the lifting jacks for 35006.

 Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD have just splashed out on a new selection of useful size spanners.  I say useful size, as the tool store contains many spanners of un-useful sizes, all the ones that might be useful have long since disappeared, presumably to the island of Sodor.  These were all rather impressively plasma cut from thick sheet steel, and turned out to be surprisingly cheap.
A batch of useful spanners
 The plasma cutting technique leaves a few rough edges in place that need to be chamfered off, Martin and Len quickly sorted that out.
Martin (l) and Len, removing rough edges
 One of the DMLL group confided that he is busy making a replica Dinmore Manor nameplate at home. He has made the backplate, obtained the brass letters and is working out how to apply the brass beading round the edge. He has designs on putting it up on the wall above the fireplace however his wife would prefer it to be relegated to the wall of the garage.  I suspect that I know who will win.

As mentioned already, the next in the queue to make use of the lifting jacks is 35006.  To that end, many of the more fragile items near the front buffer beam were being removed. 
Paul removing the cylinder drain cock pipes
John removing the coupling back plate
 John is one of four different Santas who will be on duty at the North Pole (AKA Winchcombe) over the upcoming Santa season.  Although he has a perfectly good white beard of his own, he will be wearing a false one over it.  In the past, when any sceptical children have pointed out that it's a false beard, and that he can't be the real Father Christmas, he has lifted it up and shown them the real one underneath, explaining that he has taken to wearing the false beard as he doesn't like it when naughty boys and girls pull on his beard to see if it is real or not.   When I pointed out to him that Santa was only supposed to see "nice boys and girls", he decided that I was just "too logical".

During the operating season, 35006 had experienced difficulties with a cylinder pressure relief valve blowing by.  It had been temporarily cured by welding it into place, but now a replacement part has been made and is now being fitted.
The old one, mid way through un-welding
The new part, soon to be fitted.
And finally, yours truly was eager for the return of the fish and chip special.  The crew usually get any left overs sent up to the cab for them to scoff on the way back.  Unfortunately for her, Eleanor doesn't get on well with fried foods, and had kindly offered to fetch her portion back for me.  She had even gone to the trouble of removing it from the plastic tray, wrapping it in silver foil and keeping it warm on the back head.
A thumbs up on the run around suggested that the mission had been accomplished
Lunch... and jolly nice it was too
Thank you Eleanor.